As the Senate prepares to debate what constitutes incitement from a politician, Sen. Rand Paul has a question: Are we going to impeach Sen. Bernie Sanders retroactively for his “role” in the attack on House Minority Whip Steve Scalise?
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If the Kentucky Republican’s question sounds flip, we ought to consider what we’re talking about here.
On Feb. 9, the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump will begin in the upper chamber of Congress. To the extent it wasn’t to prove impeachment has become merely a political process now, Democrats will seek to demonstrate that he deliberately incited elements within the Jan. 6 pro-Trump protest in Washington, D.C., to go to the Capitol, enter it and riot.
To this end, the articles of impeachment are rather thin. The worst quote they could find from Trump’s speech to demonstrate incitement was, “If you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.” This could have been taken from any random speech delivered by any politician from Bangor, Maine, to Honolulu in the last half-century, however.
If they want to make a case that it’s attached to context, fine. Other things can be attached to context too, as Paul noted during a Friday appearance on Fox News’ “Hannity.”
“Well, here’s the real question about impeachment. If they’re going to impeach people who incite violence, I have a question: Are they going to impeach Bernie Sanders? You remember the guy who shot Steve Scalise? Steve Scalise almost died. I was there at the ball field when he was shot,” Paul said.
Members of Congress cannot technically be impeached, but that was not quite Paul’s point.
Scalise, a Louisiana Republican, was shot in June of 2017 during practice for a congressional charity baseball game. The man who shot him, James Hodgkinson, was “a rabid Bernie Sanders supporter,” as Paul noted.
“And you remember what Democrats were saying at the time? They were saying Republicans’ health care plan is ‘you get sick and then you die,’” Paul said.
“That sounds like an incitement. If you’re telling people that the Republican Party is going to kill you, why wouldn’t you then react violently and say we must kill them before they kill us?”
Paul added that he was “not serious about this. I don’t think Bernie Sanders should be impeached.”
“But if you follow the logic that the president saying ‘go fight for your country’ is somehow to be taken literally, even though he used the words peacefully, you’d have to examine Bernie Sanders’ language because one of his rabid supporters almost killed Steve Scalise,” he added.
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“What about Cory Booker? Booker said, ‘Get up in their face, get up in their face.’ Is that to be taken literally or figuratively, Cory?”
Hannity would go on to mention a whole list of Democrats who had made similar statements. Maxine Waters, who famously told a crowd to get in the faces of Trump administration officials; Joe Biden, who said he would beat Trump up; or Kamala Harris, who said during the occasionally violent protests that gripped the country last summer that participants shouldn’t “let up.”
Paul added that even he’d been a target of invective, considering the people that had made remarks about him after he was attacked by his neighbor.
“If you use the logic they’re using against Trump, they would have to look in the mirror and look at all the times they’ve said, go fight, win, get up in their face, throw their food on the floor, assault them in restaurants, yell and scream at them, all the stuff that happened to my wife and I,” Paul said.
“If they’re going to say Trump incited that, they need to look at all of their speeches, and I think what you’d find is no, they only want to look at Trump,” he added. “They don’t want to look in the mirror.”
This is the double standard of the Trump years, though, when only Republicans would be judged for fiery rhetoric and Democrats would be given a high-five by the media for all kinds of rubbish.
For every Democratic politician and left-leaning media outlet, the Capitol incursion was the culmination of Donald Trump’s administration — and yet, find anyone willing to say they played some part in raising the temperature.
Please, find me the columnist at The Washington Post or the MSNBC guest who said something outrageous, inflammatory and cretinous who’s currently wringing their hands at raising the nation’s collective blood pressure over the past four years. Show me the representative or senator shaking their heads at what they helped incite.
You won’t find any — and nor should you, for that matter, because that would be silly. Donald Trump’s speech on Jan. 6 was far from his finest moment, but it wasn’t incitement and it wasn’t an impeachable offense.
A subset of pro-Trump hooligans who came to Washington, D.C., to cause trouble did just that. The “incitement,” according to the impeachment, involved the then-president telling his supporters to “fight like hell,” words which have been part of stump speeches since time immemorial.
The idea that Bernie Sanders incited Steve Scalise’s shooter is a reductio ad absurdum, of course. It’s fitting, however, considering the whole impeachment is an absurdity.